Book releases are SO much fun… all the hours and hours and hours (and hours)… (and more hours…) of endless writing, sleepless nights, wrestling with characters, editing until your eyes feel like they will shrivel up and die, all culminate into fruition because it’s done. Book is out there for people to love, laugh during, and occasional hate and throw across the room. Hopefully, that last one is rare….
Late July, seven other authors and I released a box set, Once Upon A Laugh, a set of 8 romantic comedy/Jesus-glorifyin’ novellas. We’ve been planning this novella collection ever since the release of Love at First Laugh last year, with a few authors new authors thrown in! This set contains books from Pepper Basham, Christina Coryell, Mikal Dawn, Inspy Romance’s own Heather Gray, Jessica Patch, Betsy St. Amant Haddox, and Laurie Tomlinson. And of course yours truly :-) It’s SO MUCH FUN working on romcom collections, because it naturally lends to lots of laughter and smiles. And to be along side such stellar authors was truly humbling for me!
Today, I thought I’d give you a tiny sneak peek out of my own novella, A (wildly) Wonderful Wedding! Be sure and pick up your copy of Once Upon A Laugh today, OR if you are on Kindle Unlimited, read for free!!
A (wildly) Wonderful Wedding
They may be the worst Maid of Honor and Best Man in the history of weddings…
Danielle Littleton stared at her best friend, quite a few words sitting on the tip of her tongue but none that would be helpful or welcome at the moment.
Maybe she’d misheard. It was plausible, since Mari was talking so fast Danni could barely understand a word she said. “Come again?”
There. That wasn’t mean, right?
“Brandon took me out to where we had our first date and got down on one knee and everything. Look!” Mari stuck out her left hand and wiggled her fingers, her ring finger twinkling as light caught the oval rock that now graced the previously bare hand.
And in Danielle’s humble, best friend opinion, should still be bare for another year—or two—or five. “It’s—beautiful.” And it was. Almost blindingly gorgeous in a way that made Danielle queasy. “This is pretty—” she searched for the right word “—sudden. I had no idea you guys were talking about marriage already.”
“We weren’t. But you know Brandon. He’s not one for dragging his feet, and oh, Danni. I’m so in love with him. He’s the one I’m going to spend the rest of my life with. When you know, you just—know, right?”
Wrong. Oh so wrong. But maybe they’d have a nice, long engagement. “Have you tossed around dates yet?”
“We have a date in mid-July we think would be perfect.”
If she wouldn’t look overdramatic, Danielle would throw her hands up right in the middle of Starbucks and shout a little “Thank you, Lord Jesus!” July was fourteen months away. Her friend had just met Brandon in March. They’d become officially a couple in April.
It was now May, and they’d been dating a whoppin’ four whole weeks. Way too early to be getting engaged, and if anyone could attest to that, it was Danielle.
But a long engagement would help at least. “That’s great! Summer weddings are always so beautiful. And that will give you plenty of time to plan. I know your mom will want to do a big—”
Mari cleared her throat. “Uh, Danni—”
“We’re actually planning to keep it fairly small. Just family and close friends.”
“Gotcha.” Danni was the exact opposite. When the time came, her wedding would be big and bold and extravagant. Quick and easy hadn’t worked out for her before, so next time, it was the whole shebang or nothing.
“We’re going to have one person stand up with each of us. You’ll be my maid of honor, right? There’s no one else I would want to stand with me.”
“Of course! I’d be mad if you chose anyone else.”
Mari clapped her hands. “Oh I’m so excited! We have so much to do. Okay, so make sure you mark Saturday, July 14th off on your calendar, okay? The pastor said the church is free that day, so that’s what we’re looking at.”
Danielle pulled out her phone and scrolled forward. “Uh, I think that’s the wrong date.”
“What? No, Brandon and I just looked at it last night.”
“No, see? The 14th is a Sunday, the 13th is that Saturday.” She held the phone calendar app out for Mari to see.
Mari glanced at it, then laughed. “You have the wrong year, goof.”
“We’re getting married this July. As in two months from now. As in we have a lot to do to plan this wedding in time, even if we are keeping it small, and I’m going to need your help.”
Danielle couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping. “Are you crazy?”
“What do you mean?”
“Mari, you’ve only been dating him a month. How can you—”
“We technically started seeing each other two months ago. And there’s no rule that says you have to know each other a certain amount time or have a specific length of engagement. We’re in love, Danni. We want to spend the rest of our lives together. You know me. I’m the least spontaneous person out there. But this just feels—right.”
“What does your mom think?”
“My mom got married to Nate a week after they were engaged, and barely a month after they met. She has zero room to lecture or disagree. She’s happy for us.”
Just lovely. “Well, I have experience, and it wasn’t a good one.”
Mari sat back and sipped on her latte. “You do?”
Danielle clenched her fist. “I don’t like talking about it. I was young and stupid and almost made the same mistake you’re about to make. Trust me, Mari. It’s better to wait and get to know each other first.”
“So wait. You were married? How? I’ve known you since we were freshmen in college.”
Danielle shifted in her seat and sipped her iced mocha, wishing she’d kept her mouth shut. She’d buried what happened that summer and had no desire to rehash it. But if it would help her friend— “It was the summer after I graduated high school. We were both lifeguards at the rec center in Brentwood. He was home for the summer from college, getting ready to start his senior year. We flirted for a few weeks before he asked me out on a date. Then we were inseparable. Spent every waking moment together, and eventually some of the non-waking ones too. By the end of July, my heart and virginity were gone, and the thought of going to Chattanooga for college with him so far away at the University of Memphis—I didn’t think I would survive the year. We were going to try and see if I could switch colleges at the last minute, but my parents were livid and forbade it. Said they would refuse to pay for it. That’s when he proposed. We decided if we snuck off and got married, they couldn’t possibly say no. Marriage seemed like the perfect answer. We were in love, so why not live under God’s blessing, right? It sounded so spiritual at the time. Like God obviously wanted us to get married so we would stop sinning. Nevermind the host of other crazy stuff I was doing. I was so dumb.”
“So you eloped?”
“We were supposed to elope. Except he never showed. He texted me when he was already halfway to Memphis, apologizing and saying a bunch of other stuff I couldn’t even read through all my tears. I was so mad that I blocked his number and blocked him on Facebook. We’ve never talked or seen each other since.”
Mari reached over and squeezed one of Danielle’s hands. “What a jerk. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine. In a lot of ways, I’m relieved we didn’t go through with it. Life would be completely different. For one, I never would’ve met my college roommate.”
Mari laughed. “Now that would be tragic.”
“Right? What would you do without a Danielle in your life?”
“Thankfully I don’t have to find out.”
She sat back and fiddled with her cup. “Anyway, if we were still together, we’d be celebrating our five-year anniversary in two months. I might even have a kid or two by now. I seriously can’t imagine that. Do you know I don’t even know his middle name? Or his birthday? My point is—there’s no need to rush things. Take your time, enjoy dating, get to know each other better before you make such a big decision.”
Mari sipped on her latte and stared out the window for a moment before looking back at Danielle. “Let me point out a few things. First, Brandon’s middle name is Michael, and his birthday is September 29th. I’m also not eighteen years old. I’m not eloping, and I have the full support of my parents. We’re also not sleeping together, although I’ll admit, the temptation is real and made the July date look appealing. But that isn’t the only reason. I know it’s quick, but we’ve thought about it and really feel like this is what we should do. Please be excited for us. Pretty please?”
That was like asking her to be excited about watching her best friend get hit by a train. She mustered up a smile anyway and lied through her teeth. “I am excited. Ecstatic even. I just want you to be happy.”
“I am happy. Brandon makes me want to break out in some goofy musical song and dance number just at the thought of him. He completes me.”
Danni reached over and squeezed her hand. “I’m glad.” Glad that her friend hadn’t actually gone all Sound of Music on her.
Mari squealed. “Oh my goodness, I am so excited. Okay, so are you busy Saturday?”
Probably wedding stuff. Lovely. “Nope. I’m free.”
“Oh good! Can you come to dinner at Brandon’s place at six? We thought it’d be fun to have a little engagement dinner with our best man and maid of honor.”
Danni smiled and nodded. “Of course. I wouldn’t miss it.” She’d have to practice her acting skills between now and then.
Drake stood up from his desk, plastered on a happy face, and shook his best friend’s hand while pulling him in for a backslapping hug. “Dude. Congratulations.”
If a guy could be described as glowing, Brandon was it. He looked like he had just won a million dollars in the lottery or something. “Thanks, man. You’ll be my best man, right?”
“Sure. When’s the big day?”
Drake fought to keep his feelings from his face as he sat back down, the shock of his friend’s announcement hitting him like a fist in the face. “Like, in two months?”
“I know what you’re thinking. It’s too soon. But man. Not to get all mushy, but I’m in love with her. Andrew goes back on tour in September, so it gives us a few months to settle in before that. Then she’s going to travel with us.”
Brandon sat at his own desk, twirled his chair around to face Drake, and frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, what are your plans after that? Didn’t she say she wanted to go back to college?”
He shrugged and turned back to his work. “Yeah, someday. We’ll figure that out. Take it one day at a time.”
Drake wanted to put his fist through a wall. His best friend was making the biggest mistake of his life, but popping his bubble would only make him mad. “Gotcha.”
“Hey, you have the invoice for Jasper ready yet? I told him we’d have it to him by the end of the day.”
Stuffing down his frustration, Drake typed the last line on the invoice he almost had ready. “Sending it now.”
Owning a business with his best friend was great most of the time. AV Design Pro had been their shared dream, and it had grown beyond their wildest imaginations. But some days, Drake wished he would have just done it by himself. Brandon was there only half of the time, the other half he spent playing drums for country music star Andrew Davies. Which meant that fifty percent of the time Drake handled everything by himself, and the other fifty percent he had his friend feeling the need to remind him to do simple things like sending a client an invoice.
He wasn’t bitter, just—frustrated.
And now his friend was adding a wife to the mix, one he barely knew.
Jealous much, Drake?
Staring at the computer screen, he ran his hands through his hair. No. He wasn’t jealous. He’d made his choices and was happy with them.
But still, there was always that wayward thought of—what if?
“Oh, I forgot to ask. You busy Saturday night?”
Drake perked up. A guy’s night sounded great. He’d been working crazy hours with Brandon gone on tour, but now that he was back— “Nope. Have somethin’ in mind?”
“Mari thought it’d be good to all get together, me, you, her and her maid of honor. Talk wedding plans or something.”
Great. His first Saturday in months not working, and he’d spend it talking wedding stuff—for a marriage that was doomed to fail. Brandon was his best friend, though. He had to be supportive. “Sure, I’ll be there.”
He didn’t have to like it—but he’d be there.
Look happy, Danielle.
She flipped down the visor in her little Honda Civic and checked her makeup. She tried to use light colors to help with the happy charade she was putting on tonight. She let herself give into one last frown to reflect her true feelings, then tucked her reddish-brown hair behind her ears and smiled as bright as she could.
There. Happy. Done.
Getting out of her car, the smell of charcoal and some type of grilled beef tempted her nose as she clicked the lock button on her key fob and straightened the purse on her shoulder. Only Mari and Brandon’s cars sat in the driveway, so she assumed she arrived before the best man.
Odd that she was meeting the best friend of her best friend’s fiancé for the first time to discuss wedding details.
If that didn’t scream problem, she didn’t know what did.
She took the sidewalk to the front door, which opened before she even had a chance to knock.
Mari grabbed her into a hug. “Oh, I’m so happy you’re here!”
She hugged her friend back, then stepped into the cozy little bungalow. Nestled in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, a town that probably boasted more music industry residents per capita than any other city in the United States, the small house was perfect for Brandon. And, she hated to admit it, but perfect for Mari too. She could see her friend making this little house a home.
Brandon stepped in from the back porch wearing a red grilling apron with Master of the Grill plastered across the front. “Hey, Danni.”
“Hey. Nice apron.” Not really. He looked pretty ridiculous, but she kept that thought to herself. “Dinner smells good.”
“Grillin’ weather is the best. Drake should be here in a few, and the burgers are almost ready.”
Danielle tensed. What were the odds that Brandon’s best man was named Drake? Pretty stinkin’ slim, and just her luck. But whatever. She’d met a few other guys with the same name. It was just bad luck and nothing more. Squaring her shoulders, she mustered up a smile. “Congrats by the way.” Oh! That almost sounded honest! Well done, Danielle. Well done.
“Thanks.” He put an arm around Mari and pulled her in snug against him. “I’m sure you’ll agree I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” He leaned down and kissed a grinning Mari.
Danni put her hands over her eyes. “Ew, PDA. Stop.”
Mari’s laughter lightened the air. “Get used to it.”
Danielle lowered her hands and focused her gaze on Brandon until he returned her stare. “You do know if you hurt my friend, I will hurt you ten times worse, right?” No acting needed there.
His grin lessened a smidge, replaced by a look of honest determination. “I don’t promise I’ll be perfect, but I fully intend to love and take care of her as long as I live.”
Her defenses weakened—but only a little. Didn’t every guy say that before they got married?
Brandon kissed the top of Mari’s head one more time. “I gotta get the burgers.” With that, he left out the back door, allowing a fresh wave of charcoal scented air to fill the room.
Danielle put her hands on her hips. “What can I do to help?”
“I have some potato salad and chips in the kitchen. You can put those out. I need to use the bathroom real quick before we get started.” She checked her watch. “Oh, Drake should be here any minute, so get the door if he knocks.”
Ugh. That name was going to grate on her nerves all night. “I’m on it.” Her friend disappeared down the hall, and Danielle made her way to the small galley kitchen. The room had been renovated in the not-so-distant past. White cabinets, gray-speckled granite counters, a shiny white tile backsplash, dark stainless steel appliances. It looked like a scene out of an HGTV magazine, complete with modern light pendants and everything.
Danielle preferred to be a little more vintage herself. She just rented an apartment at the moment, but her dream kitchen would have dark, oak wood cabinets, a shelf—or three—dedicated to cookbooks, and a giant island for lots of prep space. Oh and she didn’t care if it looked tacky, she wanted a pan rack hanging right in the middle for easy access.
She sighed. It would be years before she’d be able to afford anything close to that. No use dwelling on what couldn’t be.
Flicking away the thoughts, she picked up the items Mari had laid out on the counter and, trying to balance them all, made her way back to the dining area.
The front door opened behind her.
Evidently this Drake-guy didn’t believe in knocking.
She turned to greet him. “Hey, I’m Dan—”
Words caught in her throat at the sight of the familiar dark eyes, and the bowl of potato salad slipped from her hands.